An interview with Ian Wright CBE, CEO of the Food and Drink Federation

An interview with Ian Wright CBE, CEO of the Food and Drink Federation

An interview with Ian Wright CBE, CEO of the Food and Drink Federation

I have been chatting to a number of leaders of organisations who have some interesting perspectives on how they lead their people and those connected to them during these unprecedented times. First up is Ian Wright CEO of the UK's Food & Drink Federation. The next catch up will be with Anabel Fielding, former co-founder and CEO of Quintessentially and now CEO of Alite Global.

Ian is the voice of UK food and drink manufacturing and is at the heart of the industry response to COVID-19.

Do you think that you have changed your style of leadership or management over the last few weeks, how?

My last three jobs have all involved the turnaround of organisations so I have always had to be an ‘out there’ leader from the start - being very clear about what you want, convincing the team they can achieve far more than they had been allowed hitherto, being constantly available. I manage by walking about. I like to talk to people - in person or on the phone - in the moment, agree a course of action and move on. So, though I don’t find being remote a challenge, I think the current situation demands that the leader remembers to reassure and check in much more. I’d do it if I was in the same physical space or on the phone but somehow it doesn't come as naturally in a video conference.

How do you inspire and motivate people right now?

You’d better check with my people if that’s what I do :-). Our people believe in what the organisation is doing, and they know they play a specific part in achieving that goal. We have a brilliant group who believe in our mission to be the most effective representative organisation in British business. They do so at least, in part, because they believe that is what the food and drink industry deserves. Add to that our current vital task to feed the nation during the crisis and I don’t personally need to do a lot of inspiring.

What has been the best change you have made as a result of social distancing?

I, personally, have always a bit awkward about hugging people I don’t know very well. Now I am absolved.

What will you never go back to doing and why?

Trying to explain why presence is not required for participation. Now that is blindingly obvious to everyone. It’s liberating for people and potentially has a major beneficial financial impact. However, it’s important to find ways of people connecting both virtually and on the - probably fewer - occasions that they are together.

What will you do more of now life has changed?

As mentioned, I manage by walking about. That is underpinned by an assumption of casual connection with one’s colleagues. Now that assumption is open to question, we will all have to organise and schedule our contacts much much more, otherwise they will just wither...